It’s a little unusual to review two animated movies at once. This is an intriguing strategy at a time when the entertainment industry is beginning to develop a rather wearying fixation with Multiverse tales. Let’s have two movies that revolve on the same character and are tied to the Multiverse Theory, which holds that every choice a person makes results in a branching off into a different world where a different choice was made. The two stories can finally merge into one another. Theoretically, that seems like a bold and original interpretation of the idea. However, despite the fact that many brilliant and intriguing ideas are executed here, a few snags arise as these films attempt to cohere.
The fact that you may view these movies in any order is one of their selling points. To Me, The One Who Loved You came after To Every You I’ve Loved Before for me to see. Both stories are largely quite different from one another. These are essentially love stories that center on our protagonist Koyomi and how the course of his life is drastically altered by the decision he makes when he is a little child about whether to live with his mom or his dad after his parents get divorced. This individual lives two totally different lives despite the fact that things like his work path and the people he interacts with are the same.
To Every You I’ve Loved Before behaved more like a traditional slice-of-life story when I initially viewed it. Parallel universes and switching between them are introduced as an original background feature that just so happens to revolve around Koyomi. He spends a lot of time becoming more approachable as he matures and eventually opens up to others, including his future love interest. As the movie progresses, there are intriguing, if predictable, plot turns that focus more on what humans may do with technology that would let them travel between other parallel universes. The video raises an intriguing social issue regarding how drastically different our lives may be as a result of seemingly insignificant personal decisions. If you pause to consider it, there might be a version of you existing somewhere who is having the experiences that the present version of you want. On the other hand, it’s possible that there are other versions of you out there who are jealous of the situation you are in. Would you travel to a different world if it meant you could get fresh experiences or meet someone you had lost one last time? The love story centered around Koyomi was compelling enough to keep me watching for the majority of the movie, up until the last third. I wish the movie had done more with this idea than just sticking to a few particular and predictable events.
The introduction of parallel universes and transitioning between them are maintained reasonably straightforward and simple to understand in To Every You I’ve Loved Before. Both movies contain numerous scenes in which characters simply sit down and discuss parallel world theory, but the explanations were, for the most part, kept quite conventional. I enjoy how the movie plays with the audience’s expectations by using simple ideas. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, the movie smacks you with an elaboration of its absurdly straightforward idea with all the subtlety of being smacked in the face with a baseball bat.
Suddenly, For the purpose of connecting the two dramatic climaxes, To Every You I’ve Loved Before must catch us up with all that occurs in its sister movie. It is not graceful; it is convoluted to the point where, even viewing the movie several times, I still don’t fully understand what was being done; and, worst of all, I believe the movie’s ending moves us a little bit farther away from some of its better aspects.
In my opinion, The One Who Loved You has stronger explanations and expository sections, but it could also be because the movie is primarily concerned with the concept of parallel worlds. The main emphasis of the movie is Koyomi, who lives with his father, and his interactions with Shiori, a new childhood friend. To Me, The One Who Loved You is the complete opposite of To Every You I’ve Loved Before, which spent nearly two-thirds of its running time focusing on Koyomi’s coming of age and discovering love and the final third being backloaded with storyline. The first third of the movie is devoted to developing that endearing childhood romance, whereas the last two thirds are much more plot-driven. Due to its different focus and structure from To Me, The One Who Loved You, this movie does not experience the same problems, but it also has some of its own. The problem with this movie’s linkages to the other movie is that I thought they were much more muted than they should have been. The themes that connect into the movie’s climactic finale are still difficult to understand, even if the exposition is more dispersed throughout the entire movie in this instance. Without the added background from To Every You I’ve Loved Before, the ending may feel lackluster.
Given that these movies are meant to be seen together and that the process of making connections is entertaining, that argument might be deemed irrelevant. There are many deceptive setups at the start of one film that are resolved towards the conclusion of another, and vice versa. Seeing things come together gives one a sense of fulfillment, but it must still be done gently. It appears that the novelty of seeing two movies back-to-back to explore many possibilities came first in this instance rather than a deliberate attempt to connect things together. Additionally, the fact that each movie begins offering highly gratifying and intriguing storylines on its own before faltering for the sake of novelty at various moments doesn’t help. These movies demand too much when you take into account that you must watch around 3 hours’ worth of footage with varying degrees of quality to obtain the whole experience.
It also doesn’t help that the production values of both movies should be better. I like and enjoy how both movies use somewhat different character designs to give them a sense of distinction. Apart from that, the graphics of the movie don’t give it the impression of being a theatrical production. The music makes up for it since I thought much of it did a great job of establishing the tone. There are around two insert song montages in each picture that are a treat to the ears, and the movie also makes superb use of silence to drive home a dramatic beat. Since there were no particularly noteworthy performances, I won’t say much about the voice acting, but some of it was rather stiff and monotone.
On paper, this sounds like a really intriguing concept with a lot of potential, so I really wanted to like both of these movies more than I did. I could imagine the artists going above and beyond and producing many films that connect in various ways. The execution, though, might be far better. These seem to be two compelling tales that were ultimately overwhelmed by the novelty of their coming together to create an intense emotional climax. It speaks a lot that some of my favorite scenes from each movie occurred while neither was attempting to be the other’s equal. Maybe a three-hour movie that alternated between these two realities would have worked better for this? It’s difficult to say, but I hope I could travel to the alternate reality where that was feasible.